So I recently came back from two weeks away, at two different destinations. The first week I was home (the one which just ended) was really a week I could’ve used to recover from my vacation. Before I left, I ambitiously and optimistically jam-packed it with all sorts of appointments and activities I was sure I’d be ready and pleased as punch to conquer.
Foremost amongst them was an appointment for an eye exam; another was a two-hour journey at the DMV for my son’s learner’s permit; another was a well-child check up for another son; another was college tours (which was really amazing, so I’m glad I did that); and then of course: laundry.
The first Monday of my second week away I decided to order three Roz Chast books. One that I’ve seen and flipped through at my brother’s place (What I Hate), another that simply can’t ever be a bad choice (Theories on Everything) and a third, her memoir (Can’t we talk about something more PLEASANT?), which just came out this summer.
Allow me to interrupt myself: I caught some attention, a’hem, yesterday from a sage family member about the post I wrote yesterday about Mom. It wasn’t a finger-wag, or a lecture, but more of a sweep of a faery wand. This individual hopes I’ve moved on from all the pain of my childhood, and this individual feels as though I haven’t entirely. I’ll also add that my perspective and the concept of “my story” was absolutely allowed and mentioned and even supported, but so was a “will ya get over it??” sentiment. I appreciated the concern, and I want to assure this person and
all both of you that I’m really OK. Here’s one tiny example why: if it weren’t for Mom, I’d likely not know about The New Yorker magazine until I was 26, instead of when I was 2. And if it weren’t for that, then I’d likely not ever know about Roz Chast, who is a renown TNY cartoonist, until last Monday. Things with Mom were hard, and I never mean to belabor the point, but a lot about Mom was so incredibly right too. I mean this with no irony at all: if Mom were just quirky and eccentric without the addictions and mental illnesses, she’d just be plain weird, like all moms are to their kids, and we’d likely have a typical relationship that was bristly at times, but infused with trust and love nonetheless. But that wasn’t the journey with Mom. And she had her crazy (really) parents too, so, she played that hand. But all of this and Mom’s brief but meaningful lapses into sobriety and presence considered, it was unlikely I’d end up with much reliability, ever, for more than a year growing up. So when those lapses occured, I put all my chips in those baskets. This is no one’s fault. This is human nature. We are more like squirrels than we realize. When we are dealing with mostly caprice in our loved ones, we will absolutely stock up and dig in and invest in the more stable moments. Those moments of stability become our deeply desired norm rather than exceptions to the rule. So when the caprice returns, we have whiplash with real pain and anxiety which breeds a reluctance to move and grow naturally, so things become staggered and rough, ungraceful. And then those cycles become our norm. I absolutely believe that if Mom had more health emotionally she’d still be here and things would be very much like Roz Chast depicts in her memoir. Mom loved me the best way she could. Things weren’t ideal, but I don’t think any parent in the 60s and 70s really knew WTF they were doing. I watch “Mad Men” and I’m Sally.
I put on about six pounds during my vacations. I ran three times, walked a few times and did yoga thrice. I ate too much each day and slept in too. I read a lot. It was good, really. I spent some much-needed girl time with some amazing women and I feel as though my estrogen-time stores are good for another four months. But I’ll always take more, absolutely.
So the Roz Chast books are absolutely one of the “some” great things I want to share with you. I fell asleep last night with her memoir and I laughed out loud last night (and roused my husband) at one of her panels (the book is 92% cartoons):
So check out that book and prepare to laugh. A lot.
Speaking of TNY, Lena Dunham (a current actress and writer I am too old to really care or know much about, i.e., she’s half my age) wrote a piece about her time growing up in therapy. It’s hilarious and so validating as both an adult human and as a mother. If brilliance means worry, I think I’m grateful? I am obtusely including a link here:
Another great thing (I hate that Martha Stewart hijacked that “good thing” phrase) is an app I recently installed on my iPad. I encountered it on one of my final nights of my second week away when I decided I didn’t want to read anything and wanted to play a game of Scrabble. I had to update several apps so when I went to the AppStore to do that, up came the featured app of the week, “Hanx Writer” (don’t click on photo, I don’t
care about learning how know how to link to an app):
Why do I like it? Because it got me typing (and writing, duh) –immediately– during a low time when I thought I’d just give it up altogether. All of a sudden, I ended up writing about what was going on in the room around me. I loved the sound of the keystrokes and the >ding!zxzxzxzzzzzip!< at the end of the paragraph when I'd strike return. I loved watching the letters stamp into the "paper" on their virtual hammers. It made me feel, as I used to, as a writer using a typewriter. For someone like me, who is ancient, and who grew up with a typewriter "banging" throughout the night on our maple dining room table, the sound bouncing off the mahogany walls and walnut floors as my father would write letters, and columns and fill out forms, Hanx Writer restored some of those memories to me, viscerally. I first learned how to type on a typewriter. My first phone could withstand an angry hang-up. I am becoming a Roz Chast character when I say this: I can't really get into the groove of a smooth surface; there is no give; there is no texture, there is no life to me in that. (ha! that was unintended: groove / smooth surface … never mind.)
Another greate thing (assuming you have a smartphone or a computer nearby): Pandora's comedian channels. Go now. Go to Pandora and open a new channel. Type in "John Mulaney" on your smooth glass screen with your fat thumbs and just enjoy. Or try Jim Gaffigan, Mike Birbiglia, or if there are no kids around, Robin Williams (God rest his soul). If you've been in a serious mood, let these guys simply remind you of what it feels like to laugh your ass off again. When a smile feels strange on your face, it's a sign you're in need of irreverence. Here, I did it for you: John Mulaney Delta Air Line
So I’m good, really. I get it: don’t be sad about Mom (which is not always easy, and it’s not always difficult either). Including that one interaction with the sagacious family member, most of the comments from that post have been very supportive and sympathetic. It’s life. I just happen to share what I’m feeling. It makes people own stuff and become reflective. That can scare people sometimes… I know. It’s OK though. You survive it.